Chiefs vs. Eagles: Super Bowl LVII Pre-Preview

Chiefs LB Nick Bolton and Willie Gay
Chiefs LB Nick Bolton and Willie Gay
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Super Bowl - I'm currently working on my 20th Super Bowl preview. We tend to run that on Thursday afternoon before Super Bowl Sunday, but this means waiting until the end of the week before unveiling all the stat tidbits that get you ready for the big matchup. It was one thing when we were the only site doing a Super Bowl preview packed with advanced stats. Now you can get all kinds of advanced metrics from all kinds of websites. So last year, for the first time, I introduced our pre-preview on Monday morning. This is just me emptying my notebook with five of the cool stat splits that I've found while preparing our Super Bowl LVII preview. Not a lot of commentary here, I'll leave that up to the readers in the comment thread. These stats will all appear again when we get to the actual Super Bowl preview at the end of the week, but here's a little taste of what we've found.

1) First, let's look at the trends for both teams. We'll start with the Eagles offense and the Chiefs defense. For the Chiefs, I used the natural split of the bye week which was Week 8. For the Eagles, I just used midseason and I left out the two games started by Gardner Minshew. Minshew had strong pass offense DVOA in Week 16 but the Eagles did not run the ball well in those two games without Jalen Hurts to help take the defense's attention.

Eagles Offense by Week, 2022
Weeks Pass Rk Run Rk All Rk
Weeks 1-10 35.7% 3 14.5% 3 22.2% 3
Weeks 11-21 (not 16-17) 10.2% 16 30.0% 1 14.7% 6

You can see that the Eagles' passing game has not been as strong over the second half of the season, but their running game has been phenomenal. Over a full season, 30.0% would be the second-highest run offense DVOA ever, trailing only the 2000 Rams! They aren't just No. 1 running the ball since Week 11; they're No. 1 by a lot.


Chiefs Defense by Week, 2022
Weeks Pass Rk Run Rk All Rk
Weeks 1-7 16.4% 27 -8.8% 11 7.7% 24
Weeks 9-21 -5.7% 9 -2.0% 22 -4.2% 14

The Chiefs pass defense has improved significantly since the early part of the season. The run defense hasn't been quite as good but it's not a huge difference. That improvement against the pass means better defense overall since their bye week.

Now let's look at the Chiefs offense and the Eagles defense. The Chiefs offense has no trends at all. It's pretty much been the best passing game (or close to it) with an average running game all year long.

Chiefs Offense by Week, 2022
Weeks Pass Rk Run Rk All Rk
Weeks 1-7 43.2% 1 -0.8% 17 25.6% 1
Weeks 9-21 39.4% 3 0.6% 11 24.4% 1

Doing the Eagles defense is interesting because they have two significant, completely different trends. The run defense improved around midseason, around when they signed Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh. The pass defense, however, is better split into three parts. It declined for most of the second half of the season and then reversed in the last few weeks and has been really strong.

Here's what the Eagles defense looks like split at midseason. There's a good argument that you should take the conference championship out of this, since the Eagles could just tee off on the 49ers' run for half the game without a functional quarterback. So I ran a third line that shows what the Eagles look like without that game.

Eagles Defense by Week, 2022
Weeks Pass Rk Run Rk All Rk
Weeks 1-10 -26.2% 1 8.1% 29 -11.9% 5
Weeks 11-21 -11.1% 7 -15.7% 10 -13.2% 5
Weeks 11-20 (no NFCCG) -8.5% 7 -12.1% 13 -10.1% 8

Here's what the Eagles defense looks like if you split the season into three sections according to when their pass defense got worse and then really good again:

Eagles Defense by Week, 2022
Weeks Pass Rk Run Rk All Rk
Weeks 1-8 -31.2% 1 2.7% 24 -19.1% 2
Weeks 9-16 4.5% 16 -7.6% 16 -1.4% 16
Weeks 17-21 -39.9% 2 -5.8% 18 -23.6% 3

2) Both of these teams are better when blitzing, and both of these quarterbacks were better in 2022 when opponents were not blitzing. Yes, that includes Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes is legendary for destroying blitzes, but this season he actually did have a slightly lower DVOA against the blitz. The Chiefs had 44.9% team offense DVOA without a blitz (7.7 yards per play) but 29.6% DVOA with a blitz (6.6 yards per play).

The Eagles defense blitzed 24.2% of the time, 16th in the league. They allowed -33.7% DVOA (second) with a blitz, just 4.4 yards per play. They allowed -7.9% DVOA (fourth) without a blitz, or 5.4 yards per play. Still good, but not as good as when they sent an extra pass-rusher or two.

Let's flip it around and look at Jalen Hurts. Hurts had 34.9% team offense DVOA without a blitz, or 7.8 yards per play. That dropped to -0.3% DVOA with a blitz, or 6.1 yards per play. That includes scrambles.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs defense blitzed 24.7% of the time, 13th in the league. The Chiefs had -13.6% DVOA with a blitz (eighth) for 5.4 yards per play, but allowed 13.9% DVOA without a blitz (24th) and 6.0 yards per play. The difference was less about yards per play and more about takeaways coming about 50% more often on blitzes. 

(Note: These blitz frequency numbers are from Sports Info Solutions and may be different from others on the Internet.)

3) The Eagles' offensive line is, of course, fantastic. But it's intersting to note that the Eagles ranked only 12th in ESPN's Pass Block Win Rate this season. ESPN's numbers suggest that the (relative) weakness on the line is left tackle Jordan Mailata. Here is where the five starting linemen ranked in PBWR at their respective positions:

  • RT Lane Johnson, first out of 64
  • LG Landon Dickerson, second out of 64
  • C Jason Kelce, eighth out of 32
  • RG Isaac Seumalo, 15th out of 64
  • LT Jordan Mailata, 56th out of 64

On the other side of the ball, the Kansas City Chiefs led the league in Pass Block Win Rate but the Eagles led the league in Pass Rush Win Rate.

4) The Chiefs allowed a 36.1% DVOA on "short middle" passes, which ranked 30th in the league. A big part of the problem appears to be linebacker Nick Bolton, who allowed 7.7 yards per pass in coverage with a 33% success rate. Jalen Hurts famously avoided the middle of the field last year but that was not a problem at all this season. In fact, Hurts ranked third in DYAR on passes to the short middle, trailing only Jared Goff and Tua Tagovailoa.

A.J. Brown was Hurts' most common target in this area with 26 targets, but Dallas Goedert was the one who had the most success: 12-of-14 for 169 yards plus an 8-yard DPI. There were also 12 short middle passes to DeVonta Smith, eight to Kenneth Gainwell, and seven to Quez Watkins.

5) Can the Eagles cover Travis Kelce? Nobody can, really, but the Eagles may be closer than most teams. Their linebackers had stellar pass defense coverage stats. T.J. Edwards allowed 3.6 yards per target with a 74% succss rate. Kyzir White allowed 3.7 yards per target with a 63% success rate. The Eagles ranked sixth in DVOA against tight ends. When these teams played early in the 2021 season, Kelce had only four catches for 23 yards. But it's hard to learn a lot from a game where Tyreek Hill had 186 receiving yards and three touchdowns while Kyzir White was still on the Chargers.

Our full Super Bowl LVII preview will appear on Thursday afternoon, but I hope you enjoyed this pre-preview.


30 comments, Last at 08 Feb 2023, 10:19pm

#1 by theslothook // Feb 06, 2023 - 1:21pm

When this matchup was decided, I thought the Eagles were the clear favorites as was beautifully summarized by Mike Tanier. The Chiefs have the best, second best, and maybe third best player. Everywhere else, Philly wins and in some cases massively so. 

As time has gone on, I keep having lingering doubts about Hurts against an improved KC defense. It's really all about Hurts because Philly has the goods on offense against KC purely from a talent perspective. I think KCs defense is much more scheme and coaching than on paper talent, especially in the secondary. And of course, Philly's strong o line should render that matchup a wash in the worst case. 

Thus it comes back to Hurts . Maybe it's all injury related, in which case 2 weeks( now 1) is enough to get healthy. But it also could be due to a lack of experience. 

Im starting to lean the other way after a week of overthought. Someone help talk me back to Philly 

Points: 4

#2 by TheWolffer // Feb 06, 2023 - 2:30pm

The last time I remember people discussing a Super Bowl with the premise of "best team vs best QB" was SEA vs DEN and we all know how that turned out.

Now I don't think it will be that much of a blowout but I do think we can see something akin to the TB vs KC Super Bowl. KC's pass blocking is much improved but the PHI d-line almost set the NFL record in sacks.

I see both teams being able to put up points. The PHI offense has a lot of answers and I expect them to be able to consistently move the ball on the ground if not through the air. I think the PHI d-line makes some big plays to be the difference in the game.

PHI 27
KC 23

Points: 1

#5 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 06, 2023 - 2:53pm

It wasn't so much that Philly's d-line was all-world (although it is pretty good), it's that their secondary is good enough that there is no one open early. You need to win with death by a thousand papercuts.

Points: 1

#17 by nsheahon // Feb 07, 2023 - 9:42am

Actually, the last time we saw "best team vs best QB" was 2019 KC vs. SF. 

Points: 1

#29 by bruddog // Feb 07, 2023 - 10:48pm

Denver had a ton of key injuries for that game. Seattle had basically none. It's often about health in the NFL. 



Points: 0

#3 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 06, 2023 - 2:52pm

Hurts will sometimes take a sack when he looks for too much on a given play (waiting for a downfield route when a checkdown is available) and he'll sometimes take a deep shot unnecessarily. But he's also the chunk play guy and his aggression offsets the grind. He also rarely throws the ball into harm's way. 

In short, when the offense has sputtered, it usually hasn't been his fault.

It's interesting to observe that while their ordinal rankings have gotten closer, Late Philly has as big an advantage by rushing as they would have had they maintained their early season elite passing performance. I think the basic story is defenses started taking AJ Brown away, but that meant they had to go too light in the box to stop the rushing attack. This is the concern about blitzing to stop Hurts; Philly will happily run the ball 70 times.

The Philly Defense in 2023 is a tale of three cities.

  1. Holy shit, we're healthy and awesome!
  2. Holy shit, everyone is hurt!
  3. Holy shit, we're healthy and awesome again!

The ill-wind for KC is that they are presently healthy and awesome again.

In an even game, Philly has the advantage. KC just isn't built to exploit Philly's weaknesses and has to beat them strength on strength, whereas Philly can attack strength on weakness. I don't think either team can weather a turnover apocalypse, though. If they start hemorrhaging fumbles, it's advantage KC.

Points: 3

#30 by horn // Feb 08, 2023 - 10:19pm

Can't overthink it. Eagles O and D-lines dominate [and CBs]. 31-21 Birds with maybe a late garbage TD by Chefs.

Points: 0

#11 by Oncorhynchus // Feb 06, 2023 - 7:33pm

Thus it comes back to Hurts . Maybe it's all injury related, in which case 2 weeks( now 1) is enough to get healthy. But it also could be due to a lack of experience. 


I don't know if 2 weeks is enough. He was injured against Chicago in week 15. He took off two weeks, played against NYG and didn't look good passing, took another week off, played against NYG and didn't need to look good passing the ball, then played against SF and didn't look good passing the ball. His deep ball accuracy just wasn't the same in the NFCCG, but he was also missing guys on short throws. I don't think it's lack of experience - he was making the right reads and the right decisions. He was just missing. He's made comments in the media about being in pain, but it not mattering because the job isn't finished.

That said, in the time frame Aaron Schatz mentioned the Eagles running game averaged 0.24 EPA per rush! The Chiefs were averaging 0.249 EPA per pass in that same period. In particular in the run game - not only do they have the players, they have the coach. Stoutland is the run game coordinator and he's incredible at adjusting. They did it multiple times against the 49ers. So if Hurts pulls a Purdy and can't throw (but can still run), I think the Eagles are uniquely equipped to be the only team that can win a Super Bowl on the ground. If the Eagles defense breaks down and the Chiefs build a lead - I'm not sure I see Hurts and the Eagles coming back. But if the Eagles can build a lead they have all the weapons they need to hold it. Mahomes magic doesn't work when he's sitting on the bench.

Points: 1

#22 by Pat // Feb 07, 2023 - 2:12pm

The reason I have a hard time getting a bead on this game's pretty simple.

Kansas City's pass game is great. It's around 40% DVOA-ish. Mahomes is an awesome QB. No doubt.

But you know what else that pass game is? Normal. Tampa Bay's pass offense was 40%+ DVOA last year. Kansas City and Green Bay had an even more epic offense in '20, and 40%+ DVOA passing offenses were common.

You know what isn't normal? A 30% DVOA running game. As Aaron said, that'd trail only the 2000 Rams. And the league was totally different back then.

The issue with facing a team that can run on you at will is that there are no options to stop it. None. There's nothing you can do. Great passing offenses will stop themselves plenty of times. Mahomes doesn't score every play. He misses throws, and sometimes the play call is just wrong for the defense called. It happens. But when you talk about a team that's literally able to just hand off and march down the field, you're basically just hoping and praying for a fumble.

I'm not saying Philly's gonna walk over the Chiefs - dear God, far from it. I'm saying that the key really isn't the KC offense vs the Philly defense, it's the other side. That's the thing to watch.

Points: 0

#23 by theslothook // Feb 07, 2023 - 3:07pm

How much of Philly's run game is a function of Hurts and how would his injury affect the run game?

Also, seeing the Colts in 06. Even if your personnel on defense stinks, if you literally throw the entire defense into stopping the run, I think you have a better chance of slowing down an epic run game than if you threw everything into the pass and had weak defenders doing it.


Points: 0

#25 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 07, 2023 - 3:46pm

The 2006 Colts lost Bob Sanders in week 2, and he wasn't healthy the rest of the year. They got him back for the playoffs. You can tell.

Points: 0

#26 by theslothook // Feb 07, 2023 - 3:52pm

It wasn't just Bob Sanders though. Following that team very closely - they adapted their whole approach after the Jaguars embarassment. Specifically, Teerlink made sure the dline started to run blitz and pinch hard inside with all three lbs sucked up onto the line of scrimage. The entire defense basically telegraphed that it was going to clog up the middle of the line. I'll never forget the Dr. Z line, "Call the bomb squad. If you're going to run up the middle, you better bring some dynamite." 

Its important to note - that playoff run, out of the 4 teams they faced, three of them had mostly anemic pass offenses. I know Baltimore and Kansas City had respectable pass dvoas, but their quarterbacks were already old and by the time they got to face Indy; their bodies had fallen apart. And of course, Chicago had Rex Grossman at Qb so nuff said there. 

Its no surprise at all therefore that the wheels came loose the minute the defense ran up against a team that could competently throw(NE England). In that matchup; The colts reverted back to edge rushing tactics and got gashed by Dillion. Honestly, 06 was less a referendum on Manning finally learning how to win in the playoffs and much more about favorable matchups lining up his way. Manning, for the most part, was mildly disappointing outside of that AFC Championship game - though playing against a defense as jacked up to the eyeballs as the 06 Ravens at home no less was a real testament to toughness. A trait sadly lacking in many of the Colts prior loses. 

Points: 0

#27 by Pat // Feb 07, 2023 - 6:40pm

Sorry, I might not have been clear: yeah, you can stop an elite run game - by sacrificing your coverage structure. And Philly's not a "run only" offense, so that's really dangerous.

That's what I mean by there's nothing you can do. There's nothing magic you can do to stop Mahomes in the pass game either, but he's not going to win every play. There'll be stops. It'll happen. If for no other reason than holding.

Points: 0

#19 by Tutenkharnage // Feb 07, 2023 - 12:56pm

Im starting to lean the other way after a week of overthought. Someone help talk me back to Philly 

Here's my shot: The Eagles are a team that asks quite a few questions and has a lot of answers.  The Chiefs are a team that asks some very pointed questions but does not have a lot of answers. Some of KC's biggest advantages—Kelce, Chris Jones, and Mahomes, for example—play right into Philly's biggest strengths (defending TEs, OL, and CBs). But some of Philly's biggest advantages (AJ Brown, great rushing offense) play right into KC's biggest weaknesses (CB1, DL in general against the run). Factor in Mahomes's injury, and Philadelphia has a strong case to be favored by more than a field goal. Doesn't mean the Chiefs can't win, but if both teams just show up and play their best, it's hard not to like the Eagles' chances.

Points: 1

#20 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 07, 2023 - 12:59pm

KC has to win strength on strength.

Philly can win strength on weakness.

Points: 0

#21 by Eddo // Feb 07, 2023 - 1:43pm

"Doesn't mean the Chiefs can't win, but if both teams just show up and play their best, it's hard not to like the Eagles' chances."

Interesting, I actually think I'd frame this the opposite way: if both teams play their best - i.e. the Chiefs' defense is OK to good and their running game is effective - then they win, because elite Mahomes on a team with no weaknesses is unbeatable.

I think the Eagles advantage is if neither team is at their best, because they have a higher baseline across the board, and thus have greater room for error to make up for a unit or two that are dropping the ball (figuratively).

This is why I think the Eagles are deservedly a small favorite.

Points: 0

#24 by theslothook // Feb 07, 2023 - 3:09pm

That's where the elite QB = the trump card comes into it. If Mahomes is playing at his best, then it's really hard to stop them even with a very strong defense.

A good example was the 09 Jets who took a legendary pass defensive DVOA and got murdered by Manning in the AFC title game. Mahomes himself lit up the 49ers defense this year.

That said, just because its a possibility doesn't mean you should expect it.


Points: 0

#4 by mrh // Feb 06, 2023 - 2:53pm

Two key injuries hurt the Chiefs' pass D before the bye:  McDuffie (missed 7 games) and Gay (4 games).  Mostly McDuffie was replaced by Fenton thru Week 5, then the Watson/Williams duo shared snaps that McDuffie took back when he returned in Week 9.  And Darius Harris got Gay's snaps.

McDuffie (PFF coverage grade 75.6) was a huge upgrade over Fenton (56.2).  Similarly, Gay (74.0) was much better in coverage than Harris (54.9). 

Watson and Williams have been inconsistent, with good weeks and bad weeks interspersed.  I think they learn something, opposing teams spot weaknesses and exploit them, the rookies learn and adjust, defenses go after new weaknesses, etc.  They did ok against the Bengals, at least once Boyd got hurt.

I'm not nearly as worried about the injuries to the WR corps as those to Sneed and Gay.  If they both play at something close to full ability, I think the Chiefs' passing D will be fine, with Watson/Williams not being over-exposed.  But if Sneed and/or Gay are out or limited, it will be a big boost to the Eagles' passing game.

Points: 2

#12 by kcmiz24 // Feb 06, 2023 - 11:27pm

Sneed has already cleared concussion protocol and will play. Gay was limited last week. Everyone that was injured for KC against CIN should be a go, except for Mecole Hardman who is now on IR

Points: 1

#13 by kcmiz24 // Feb 06, 2023 - 11:27pm

Sneed has already cleared concussion protocol and will play. Gay was limited last week. Everyone that was injured for KC against CIN should be a go, except for Mecole Hardman who is now on IR

Points: 0

#6 by JS // Feb 06, 2023 - 3:11pm

I can easily see a Philly blowout. I cannot see, at all, a KC blowout. Doesn't mean KC can't win, and of course, I might be an idiot, but Imma take Philly.

Points: 0

#14 by kcmiz24 // Feb 06, 2023 - 11:33pm

Anything could happen obviously,  but Kansas City has not had a point differential worse than -4 in their last 32 games. Patrick Mahomes has lost by more than 1 score only 3 times in 93 games

Points: 1

#16 by Spanosian Magn… // Feb 07, 2023 - 6:03am

I can easily see a KC blowout, particularly if circumstances grant them a 2-score lead in the second half - say, the coinflip lets them receive in the 2nd half, and from a tied game they score on both consecutive possessions. I don't think the Philly offense has the firepower to make up a big deficit quickly, and if Hurts is injured/ineffectual as he was against SF, they'll have to keep running a tiring defense back out against the best QB of his generation, and the whole thing snowballs.

I'm not saying that's likely to happen, but it's realistic.

Of course, I can also see the Philly defense wrecking KC's shit early, their offense grinding out long methodical possessions to wear the KC defense out, and the game ending, oh, say, 31-9.

I expect the game will probably be decided relatively early. If Philly really is able to dominate on defense from the start, run KC over with long drives, and build a multi-possession lead in the 1st half, they should be golden. But I think the longer the game stays close, the more the odds start to favor KC.

Points: 2

#28 by deg0ey // Feb 07, 2023 - 7:41pm

I expect the game will probably be decided relatively early. If Philly really is able to dominate on defense from the start, run KC over with long drives, and build a multi-possession lead in the 1st half, they should be golden. But I think the longer the game stays close, the more the odds start to favor KC.

I think this really depends on the specifics of how it stays close. If it's like 31-28 in the middle of Q3 and both defenses are struggling to get a stop, I'd absolutely back Mahomes to be more likely to come out ahead in a shootout.

But if it's a close, low-scoring game, I'd say the most likely scenario is the Eagles are leaning on the run and holding a lot of the ball but struggling to get it all the way to the end zone and then doing enough on defense to disrupt the Chiefs passing game. And in that situation, I think eventually the pounding in the run game is going to add up and eventually the Eagles break it open.

Points: 0

#7 by KnotMe // Feb 06, 2023 - 4:30pm

Shouldn't this be Super Bowl LVII Preview Preview?


I don't know who who to pick here and that's a good thing. 

Points: 1

#8 by // Feb 06, 2023 - 4:46pm

I just can’t get over the QBs that eagles have faced this year. We know what KC is. We don’t know what PHI is. 

Points: 2

#10 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 06, 2023 - 5:29pm

They did play the #4 and #6 rated passers by DVOA, and the equivalent of the #5. They held them to -62 DYAR.

Points: 1

#15 by kcmiz24 // Feb 06, 2023 - 11:53pm

They played both of them more than 4 months ago! Both Detroit (1-6) and Jacksonville (3-7) started very slow and got hot late to reach 9-8

Points: 1

#18 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 07, 2023 - 10:02am

Jacksonville started with a mediocre record, but was a DVOA darling early in the season.

The Lions defense sucked hard in the first half of the season, but their offense started hot. It hit a doldrums mid-season (week 5 to about week 9) when St. Brown, Swift, and Reynolds were all hurt at the same time. They then ended hot.

The Eagles got both the Jacksonville and Lions offenses in hot stretches. 

Points: 0

#9 by Asmithx // Feb 06, 2023 - 4:52pm

Enjoyed the piece, thanks for putting it out.  When it’s all said and done, we’ll know whether the Eagles relative inexperience on the staff compared to that of the Chiefs will be a factor.  That’s interesting to me.

To me though, the contest between Chiefs O and Eagles D could sway the outcome for the most part. That’s assuming the Eagles continue to show how dominant their offense has been the last two games.


Points: 0

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